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Old 22-10-2021, 05:28   #1
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12V build out for camper van- learning for boat

tldr; I'm using a camper van build to learn 12V/120V systems. Any suggestions on best way to mirror this build so I understand the same system on a boat? Mainly looking for system design, but welcome brand names.

My overall plan is to finish up a camper van and use that as home base while I get on Other People's Boats to learn. I'm still working and socking away money.
In the mean time, the camper van build provides an opportunity to learn skills that will transfer to a boat- diesel maintenance, living in small places and most importantly 12V/120V systems.

I'd like to do my build as close to what I'd find on a boat- shore power, alternator charging, solar, starter battery, house bank. I'm filling out a power requirements spreadsheet as I get parts, but it's pretty standard. A/C, fridge (Isotherm 115 12V/120V), roof fan, water pump, diesel heater, cell signal booster, inverter, various lights, stereo (an indulgence) and 12V and 120V plugs. I THINK I'm aiming for a 300Ah house bank.

Solar panels- seems like there are so many options, just find a decent brand that fits my space and gets me to the charging specs I want.

Controllers: One for each panel? At least 2 for redundancy? Definitely programmable.

Batteries: Starter- AGM. House: House bank- Lithium vs AGM. Battery selector switch? (never seen a seen a battery selector on a camper van, but I'm considering installing one just to learn how to install/use/trouble shoot.)

Once again, looking for input on mirroring a boat set up. Brand name equipment suggestions are great (and welcomed), but can read the forums for that.

As always, thanks in advance guys!
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Old 22-10-2021, 06:05   #2
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Re: 12V build out for camper van- learning for boat

Hmmm. You will learn a great deal about planning a boat system from planning an RV system. There are differences, with the first that comes to mind being an isolation tranformer or battery isolator. The second is that you don't get to use the frame of the boat as the DC negative. It's two wires everywhere.

Stick to one kind of battery. Mixed systems are a nightmare because of different charging properties.

Good systems, in my humble opinion (Not!) are cross-linked, so that the house battery can start the engine, for example. They also include separate batteries and separate charging sources for different functions, such as starting versus house. Think being able to direct any charging source to any battery, and then any battery to any use. Think starting with a completely dead vehicle, all batteries depleted, and then build back by pulling the rope on the little genset.

Sounds like you're having fun with it already.
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Old 22-10-2021, 12:18   #3
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Re: 12V build out for camper van- learning for boat

Electrical Systems 101 http://c34.org/bbs/index.php/topic,5977.0.html
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Old 23-10-2021, 08:20   #4
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Re: 12V build out for camper van- learning for boat

OP, good plan.

Here is a link to a website that was built for DIY RV’ers: https://www.explorist.life

I know Nate personally and his info is impeccable.
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Old 23-10-2021, 09:05   #5
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Re: 12V build out for camper van- learning for boat

The systems are enough alike that most knowledge building the system will transfer to the boat. The RV crowd tends to buy cheaper components, but many of them work just as well as their marine counterparts. RV's will have more issues with charging Lithium batteries at low temperatures. It is much easier and cheaper to mount solar panels on RV's. You should find that the cost of DIY LifePO4 batteries is now in the same range as AGM, and is dropping with time.
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Old 23-10-2021, 11:24   #6
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Re: 12V build out for camper van- learning for boat

I'm not sure you are going to learn everything and some may be misleading. Pulling wire crimping connectors yes. Tinned wire and the way you seal terminals comes immediately to mind. I feel sure others will add to that.
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Old 23-10-2021, 12:15   #7
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Re: 12V build out for camper van- learning for boat

It never hurts to use marine components in an RV, especially wire, cable and connectors
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Old 23-10-2021, 12:35   #8
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Re: 12V build out for camper van- learning for boat

Quote:
Originally Posted by jhilley View Post
It never hurts to use marine components in an RV, especially wire, cable and connectors
Most don't nor would I. It would only hurt the wallet. RVs and boats are two different animals. The experiences can be similar cruising and touring, cost.
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Old 23-10-2021, 14:02   #9
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Re: 12V build out for camper van- learning for boat

Quote:
Originally Posted by fschaefer4 View Post
tldr; I'm using a camper van build to learn 12V/120V systems. Any suggestions on best way to mirror this build so I understand the same system on a boat? Mainly looking for system design, but welcome brand names.



My overall plan is to finish up a camper van and use that as home base while I get on Other People's Boats to learn. I'm still working and socking away money.

In the mean time, the camper van build provides an opportunity to learn skills that will transfer to a boat- diesel maintenance, living in small places and most importantly 12V/120V systems.



I'd like to do my build as close to what I'd find on a boat- shore power, alternator charging, solar, starter battery, house bank. I'm filling out a power requirements spreadsheet as I get parts, but it's pretty standard. A/C, fridge (Isotherm 115 12V/120V), roof fan, water pump, diesel heater, cell signal booster, inverter, various lights, stereo (an indulgence) and 12V and 120V plugs. I THINK I'm aiming for a 300Ah house bank.



Solar panels- seems like there are so many options, just find a decent brand that fits my space and gets me to the charging specs I want.



Controllers: One for each panel? At least 2 for redundancy? Definitely programmable.



Batteries: Starter- AGM. House: House bank- Lithium vs AGM. Battery selector switch? (never seen a seen a battery selector on a camper van, but I'm considering installing one just to learn how to install/use/trouble shoot.)



Once again, looking for input on mirroring a boat set up. Brand name equipment suggestions are great (and welcomed), but can read the forums for that.



As always, thanks in advance guys!


If you want diesel heat, get a drip feed stove. Lot less maintenance, no power draw, if you want to move heat around get a thermocouple fan.

I would use one small MPPT controller per panel. Better shade tolerance as well as redundancy.

Are you going to mount panels (rigid) or bond them (flexible)?

Unless you have a specific need for AGM (extended high-C draws) their drawbacks outweigh the benefits.
Drawbacks are:
A. Don’t like PSoC operation, they really need to be fully charged most days, 6/7 or cycle life suffers significantly.
B. Bulk charging needs to be at high C, 0.2C min, 0.3C better, 0.4C best practice.
B.1. For a 300Ahr bank that means 60A min, 90A better, 120A best. Around 100A is when an alternator starts to need a serpentine belt so in addition to a high output alternator you will need to pay for serpentine belt.
B.2. That means anytime you discharge the house bank below about 75% you need to start the engine to recharge at high C, solar won’t put out enough amps.
C. Faster charging is only for bulk charging. At 0.13C the full charging cycle starting at 50% will take 6-7hr. If you get a big 0.4C alternator you might shave an hour off of that. You will charge initially at the 0.4C rate until the battery voltage climbs to you set point at which point the regulator will limit voltage and amps will taper off. At some point the amps will be low enough you only need to solar to charge and the engine can be shut off. Probably an hour or so.

Yes there are folks with AGM banks and stock alternators on their engines that last most of a decade. My sense is that they have comparatively large house banks and rarely go below 80% and the equalize once in a while if the manufacturer allows.

Yes AGMs are more vibration resistant. Mount the batteries on a rubber vibration pad which should deal with this issue.

With Gels and FLAs low C bulk charging is acceptable and solar can do all the charging.

If I chose to use a Lead Acid battery and had access problems for maintaining the battery I would either use FLAs with hydro caps or I would get Gel batteries.

LA vs LFP.
Best bang for the buck is DIY LFPs.
Next is solar storage FLAs which are plug-n-play.
If you want PnP LFP name brand is going to cost significantly.
In the last several months off brand LFPs have come on the market for $350/100Ahr. I have no opinion on them other than Caveat emptor.

Attached is a cost comparison sheet I did last spring. Blue column is the key result. Click image for larger version

Name:	battery lifetime cost comparison.jpg
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Old 23-10-2021, 16:28   #10
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Re: 12V build out for camper van- learning for boat

RV and vans often have some distinct differences versus boats. To combine batteries, they often use a solenoid wired to the ignition switch instead of an ACR. RVs have easily accessible chassis grounds so do not run a cable pair. Power distribution on RV and vans are usually a power distribution center (a converter vs an inverter) with automotive fuses (12v) and household style 120vac breakers. Because these distribution boxes often have an integral 12v charger, it takes a bit of wiring to isolate the charger when adding an inverter to prevent back-feeding the charger by the inverter.

I have started to see hi-end van builds are using marine-grade electrics (Blue Sea). I recently replaced the Converter on my GTRV camper van. 6 AC circuits, 12 DC circuits, and a 45 amp charger. $230. I seriously thought about converting to Blue Sea with an AC panel, a 12VDC panel, and an inverter/charger. Would have involved a LOT of modification at well over $1000.

Other than that, plan is great. No other differences.

Peter.
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Old 23-10-2021, 17:39   #11
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Re: 12V build out for camper van- learning for boat

I work on both boats and vans. I treat the van more like a boat than the other way around.

Always use 2 wires on a van. Heavy ground from the house bank to chassis. Never trusted 20' of steel as a good conductor.

I use marine components - Blue Seas, Victron, and tinned wire with good heat shrink connectors.

If the house bank is lead acid (Fla, Agm, or Gel) an ACR between start battery and house bank works well - as they are bi-directional your solar will keep the start battery charged if the engine is not run for a while.

Battery switch for the house bank - simple on/off. No reason to ever use start battery for house loads.

Another on/off switch for inverter positive feed.

If using LFP which is very cost competitive now charging changes a bit. Victron Orion between start battery and house bank to protect the alternator.
For BMS if building the bank look at Overkill Solar. Good quality and reasonable price.

Victron MPPT controllers for the solar - best case one per large panel.

Neat wiring with buses to keep battery wiring at a minimum.

Proper fusing always.
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Old 16-11-2021, 05:21   #12
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Re: 12V build out for camper van- learning for boat

@CharlieJ- thanks for the explorist link. This is what I'm using and it is a great source for info and planning.

@Adelie Thanks for the spreadsheet. I was using that for research when a friend sent info on EG4 LifePO 100Ah batteries. Very well respected and $540/100Ah batteries.

@Boatpoker- thanks for the Marine Electrical Standards. While I won't hit all the standards, I will get a lot of them. fwiw, Explorist refers to these standards often.

I'll follow up with my build when I get done. As always, thanks guys!

After looking at all the different brands, I have (mostly) settled on Victron and Bluesea. As pointed out by you guys, it will correlate to what I see on boats.
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Old 16-11-2021, 06:05   #13
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Re: 12V build out for camper van- learning for boat

Despite having no commercial/professional experience in 12/24V DC electrics, I managed to sort out and maintain our boats (and a few others along the way) for 20+ years based on this idea: Buy yourself an old Italian motorcycle, once you've overcome the worst that Magneti Marelli can throw at you, everything else seems easy.
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Old 16-11-2021, 07:01   #14
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12V build out for camper van- learning for boat

Quote:
Originally Posted by fschaefer4 View Post
@CharlieJ- thanks for the explorist link. This is what I'm using and it is a great source for info and planning.

@Adelie Thanks for the spreadsheet. I was using that for research when a friend sent info on EG4 LifePO 100Ah batteries. Very well respected and $540/100Ah batteries.

@Boatpoker- thanks for the Marine Electrical Standards. While I won't hit all the standards, I will get a lot of them. fwiw, Explorist refers to these standards often.

I'll follow up with my build when I get done. As always, thanks guys!

After looking at all the different brands, I have (mostly) settled on Victron and Bluesea. As pointed out by you guys, it will correlate to what I see on boats.


With Victron please remember to set the Bluetooth password to non zero. I encountered 8 units in my marina dock alone with default passwords still set ( even though the app Reminds you every time)
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Old 16-11-2021, 22:23   #15
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Re: 12V build out for camper van- learning for boat

My motor home is where I setup what I end up doing on the boat
Same systems
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